It’s hard to overestimate the value of a strong brand for a technology services firm. It can help you win new clients, command premium fees and attract and retain the very best talent. But how do you do it? What are the best brand building tools your firm should consider?

First let’s put some parameters about what “brand” is. Your brand is partly your reputation. It’s what people say about you when you’re not around. It’s how they feel about your firm and what they expect from working with you. But reputation alone doesn’t capture the full scope of a brand. You must also add in the dimension of visibility. How well known is your firm in your target market? The better the reputation and the greater the visibility, the stronger the brand will be.

A well-known, well-respected firm has an easier time attracting new clients. New recruits want to join that firm. Potential partners want to be associated with it. You can charge higher rates and are likely to be more profitable. When viewed in this light, it is easy to see the value of a strong brand. This definition also helps you prioritize which brand building tools should be part of your arsenal. Below are Hinge’s top five brand building tools that we have found to be most effective:

1. Start with your differentiator.

It sounds trite, but if there is no difference between what you say about your firm and what competitors say about their firms, you have a weak brand. Unfortunately, this can have a negative impact on your firm’s growth and profitability. High growth firms are 3X more likely to have a strong, easy-to-understand differentiator.

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Here is a quick test to see if you have a true differentiator. Think of some way you believe your firm is different. Then ask if a potential competitor could ever say the opposite. If the answer is “no,” it is probably not a good differentiator. By the way, having great people and offering great client service don’t pass this test.

2. Cultivate more Visible Experts®.

Your firm has its designated area of expertise. But perhaps you have some very talented individual experts within the ranks of your firm (and what firm doesn’t?). Consider dramatically increasing these people’s personal visibility. There are several routes to this goal—think in terms of books, publications, speaking engagements, etc.

The key point is that by increasing the visibility of these experts, you also increase the profile of the firm they are associated with. Having one superstar expert is notable, but having three world-class experts makes yours a superstar firm. Expertise, effectively showcased, cannot be understated as a brand building tool.

3. Produce content that supports your differentiator and showcases your expertise.

Write the definitive book on your signature topic:  This requires that you know your stuff. Note that the book should be written for clients, not fellow professional practitioners. If you make a complicated topic easy to understand and appreciate, you’ll be seen as a leader by the people who matter most.

Download-Brand-Building-GuideProduce a signature-quality video and/or webinar series:  Increasingly, people don’t read—they watch. For the cost of an impressive brochure, you can produce a memorable signature video that tells the story of your firm and positions you as a leading brand. Don’t skimp on the production budget. A ho-hum, talking-head sales piece doesn’t impress. Do it right or not at all. And for virtually no cost at all, you can build a webinar series around specific areas of insight you wish to share.

Develop a must-read industry blog:  Make sure your blog is something that potential clients and referral sources want to read — having a blog just to have one won’t cut it. Start by defining a clear blog strategy. Publish frequently and give your blog some features that stand out. Think of your blog as an online magazine, with topics and features that people talk about and share with colleagues and friends. A top-quality blog will help build online visibility as well as attract search engine traffic to your website. Over time it can position your firm as a leading brand, so don’t hesitate to get the resources you need to do it well.

Publish a provocative industry newsletter:  Not sure if a blog is right for you? Focus on a newsletter instead. More traditional than a blog, a newsletter provides critical industry insight and information that is not easily available elsewhere. Your newsletter’s particular slant can convey your perspective on the industry you serve. This type of industry-focused newsletter is among the top proven brand building tools. But to succeed as such, your newsletter must be robust and useful—it has to clearly stand out from the usual firm-centered fluff piece.

4. Conduct a groundbreaking research project.

Does a major question remain unanswered in the industry you serve? Do people understand their competitors well, or is perception foggy at best? Industry players rarely conduct research on their own, and when they do, they usually keep it proprietary.

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As a service provider to the industry, you have more freedom. Do the research, share the results widely, and you will strengthen your brand.

5. Sing the praises of your audience.

There are several practical ways to strengthen you firm’s brand through leveraging the reputation and visibility of the firms represented by your target audience. Here are a couple that serve the dual purpose of strengthening both brand and relationship.

Create a high-profile interview series:  Let’s say that you market your services to CIOs. Imagine that you set up video interviews with the most visible CIOs from the entire industry you serve. Now all these high-profile CIOs know your firm. Other CIOs are interested in what the leading CIOs have to say; now they are also exposed to your firm. Everyone assumes that your firm knows a great deal about CIOs (which it does). In short, your brand benefits from others’ credibility and visibility. The result is a strengthening of your brand.

Share the full videos, excerpts, summaries, etc. in a variety of formats to maximize your overall visibility.

Initiate an awards program:  People love to be recognized. What’s more, when they receive an award, they love to publicize the fact. Put these two tendencies to work for your firm. Create your own awards program to recognize companies in the industry you serve. Make the awards relevant to the type of work that you do. Consider partnering with an association or trade publication to increase visibility and participation in your program. You will simultaneously strengthen your reputation as a leading brand and increase your visibility among key players. Everybody benefits.

Each of these brand building tools can help to strengthen the key asset that is your brand, improve its reputation, and increase its visibility. While some of the techniques may be time consuming and can require an ongoing investment, the benefits they return are typically substantial. It’s what leading technology services brands do.

Additional Resources:

How Hinge Can Help:

The best brand building strategies help your firm connect with its buyers, builds your reputation, and increases you marketplace visibility. Check out Hinge’s Branding Program to build a brand that drives sustained growth. If you already have a well-established brand, check out Hinge’s Visible Firm program to learn how to make your firm more visible, attract new talent, and increase revenue.

Elizabeth Harr